It’s hard to imagine rising to a national level of competition in your given sport and having to change strategies.
That’s the situation facing St. John’s Prep junior Joe Luongo as he gets ready to race at the New Balance Indoor Nationals at the Armoy in New York City this weekend.
Luongo was the All-State, New England and Tri-County League champion in the 600 meter run this winter. That particular event isn’t offered at nationals, however, so he’ll be running the 400 instead.
“It’ll be a different game plan,” said Luongo, who is from Danvers. “There’s a little disadvantage because some guys are running the 400 all year. It’s more of a dead sprint (than the 600).”
Luongo is in his first year studying at St. John’s Prep, having attended and run for Austin Prep High School last year. In the Bay State the 400 is an outdoor event, and he was third at last year’s outdoor All-State meet with a time of 49.31.
Those extra 200 meters can make a big difference in a race. This winter, Luongo ran 1:20.05 in the 600 to win the Division 1 championship race, and followed that up with a 1:20.79 to win at All-States.
He then put the finishing touches on an incredible three-week run by running 1:20.59 to win the New England title. Running 1:20 as consistently as he has puts Luongo among the best runners in the country in the 600; his best time this year is second all-time for Massachusetts runners, No. 4 all-time in New England and No. 2 nationally this winter.
“Joe runs like a horse,” said St. John’s Prep track coach Ray Carey. “His finishing kick is very strong.”
The indoor 600 has a staggered start, so runners stay in their lanes until a designated ‘cut in’ spot where they can all drift towards the inner lanes. Racing to that spot is important, as is the finishing kick. Runners that have the strength and endurance to excel in both points of the race are rare.